WRT crew sew up GT title amid penalties
There were no fewer than 17 mathematical contenders for the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup title heading into the Barcelona season finale last weekend. But it was quickly whittled down to four realistic protagonists, and then to just two over the course of three intriguing one-hour races.
Team WRT Audi’s Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts would be crowned the eventual champions, and their mix of relief and exultation at the end of the third and final affair was clear. It had been a long, hard slog and not without controversy.
For some time, it looked like Haupt Racing’s Mercedes duo of Maro Engel and Luca Stolz were going to avenge their narrow 2019 title loss before the outsiders, Emil Frey Racing’s Lamborghini chargers Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoe, thrust themselves into the mix. But both crews fell out of the hunt, receiving a 35s penalty for the same pitstop infringement in race two.
Costa and Altoe were undoubtedly the form drivers throughout the weekend until that point, having secured two pole positions and two on-the-road race wins. Using the superior straightline speed of the Huracan GT3 Evo, Costa steered his way to victory in Saturday’s damp opening race, although only after being waved through by the sister car shared by Ricardo Feller and Mikael Grenier in the closing stages. Costa was incredibly lucky his team-mate followed him over the line, after a bearing failed exiting the final corner. The victory margin stood at just 0.1s.
There were no scares in race two, on track at least, for Costa and Altoe who cruised to a 7s win from the impressive Attempto Racing Audi R8 of Fred Vervisch and Nick Scholl. The race-winning Lambo and the Engel/stolz Merc were then deemed to have incorrectly positioned the HANS devices underneath the seatbelts during the driver changes. Vervisch and Scholl inherited the win and the penalty meant Costa/altoe and Engel/stolz – who had closed to within just 2.5 points of the lead – were out of it.
Staying out of trouble was the WRT crew of Vanthoor and Weerts. The Belgian pairing, promoted to second place in race two after finishing behind Engel and Stolz in the opening race, now found themselves with an 8.5-point lead over AKKA ASP’S Timur Boguslavskiy heading into the final race. The task seemed to be straightforward, but the previous two encounters were proof enough that anything could happen.
Vanthoor and Weerts did everything they needed to, and in finishing second to the superb Boguslavskiy and team-mate Raffaele Marciello, they delivered the first Sprint Cup drivers’ title for Audi since
2017. For 19-year-old Weerts, son of
WRT co-owner Yves Weerts, it was the culmination of a topsy-turvy weekend in which the Audi was not the fastest car.
Weerts and Vanthoor guided Audi to first Sprint drivers’ crown since 2017
HANS pitstop gaff ruined Costa/altoe’s title aspirations